Bullying is a word that’s wrapped in emotion. For many people bullying is associated with bad childhood memories. It’s been estimated that around 40% of people has experienced some type of bullying in the past.
The ghosts from the past are never far away for parents and can sometimes influence the way we react to current circumstances, including when our own children experience difficulties in their relationships inside or outside school.
Bullying is an insidious behaviour that transgresses children’s natural right to feel safe and secure. It can adversely affect their learning, emotional well-being, further peer relations and their sense of self. Bullying takes many forms and guises including physical and emotional abuse, intimidation, harassment and exclusion.
It now has a well-publicised cyber-dimension, which has moved the goalposts for many kids. In the past children could escape bullying behaviours they may have experienced by being at home. Cyber-bullying now means that kids can’t escape the bully like they once could.
Bullying should not be confused with teasing, rejection, random acts of violence or physicality and conflict. While children will often tease or fight, this bickering should not be confused with bullying.
Girls bully just as much as boys but they do it in less physical ways. While boys use physical intimidation or verbal abuse to wield power, girls are more likely to use exclusion or verbal sarcasm to assert themselves.
What’s bullying about?
Bullying is about lack of power as one person is powerless to stop the teasing or physical abuse. Bullying is the selective, uninvited, repetitive oppression of one person by another person or group. It should not be tolerated or practised by the adults who inhabit their world.
If you think your daughter is being bullied, then handle her with care as many girls don’t want to admit that they are on the receiving end of bullying. Some girls keep it to their chest so it helps to be on lookout for warning signs such as: items being stolen, changing the route to school and withdrawal from usual activities.
If your daughter is being bullied:
- Remain calm: This is so hard as your emotions can easily escalate into anger. But your daughter needs you to remain unemotional so she can talk with you and feel safe.
- Listen to her story: Children who are bullied need someone to believe their story. Take them seriously and avoid dismissing complaints as tell-tale. Use common sense to differentiate between bullying and more random, non-selective ant-social acts. Girls can be nasty too each other, yet this doesn’t constitute bullying.
- Deal with their feelings: A child who is bullied probably feels scared, angry and sad. While boys are more likely to act out and display anger, girls are more likely to act in feeling sad and depressed. Recognise and validate their emotions. It’s normal to feel sad, scared or just plain confused.
- Get the facts: Get a clear picture of what happens, including who is involved, the frequency and what happens prior to any bullying. Get your daughter to be as specific as possible by asking good questions. An accurate picture will help you determine your next course of action.
- Give them coping skills: With a clear picture you can start giving your child some help about how the or she may deal with bullying including using avoidance strategies, being more assertive and changing body poor language.
- Get the school involved: Bulling is best handled when parents and teachers are involved. Some parents tell me that schools can be reluctant to become involved. From my experience, schools take bullying very seriously and go to great lengths to support and empower those on the receiving ends and look for ways to change the behaviour of bullies. Approach your school through the appropriate channels, make yourself aware of your schools’ anti-bullying procedures and programs, and be willing to work within these guidelines.
- Help build your daughter’s support networks: Your daughter will need a group of friends to support her and insulate her against further social exclusion so look for practical ways to broaden friendships groups.
- Build her self-confidence: Nothing saps a girl’s confidence like bullying so provide your daughter with plenty of encouragement and loving support. Let her know through your words and treatment of that she will get through this difficult period in her life.
It’s worth remembering that children who experience some form of bullying often come out stronger and more resourceful because they have experienced difficulties and they know they can defeat them.
There are two great sessions covering friendships and bullying to help parents insulate their daughters against bullying in our Parenting Girls course. Find out more